A gunman killed 12 people, including a police officer, when he opened fire in a country music bar packed with college students in California, officials and witnesses said Thursday.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, describing Sgt. Helus, said: 'He went into save lives, to save other people.
Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman arrived around 11:20 p.m.in response to several 911 calls, heard gunfire and went inside, the sheriff said.
Authorities are investigating reports that the gunman used a smoke bomb but said they had not found anything to support this. He added that Helus was a "hard-working, dedicated Sheriff's Sergeant". He gave his all.
"It's a horrific incident", Dean said."It's part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere, and I think it's impossible to put any logic or any sense to the senseless".
Revellers, mostly young college students, are said to be hiding in bathrooms and attic spaces in a bid to flee the gunman who was carrying an "Uzi" machine gun, reports claim.
"But unfortunately, you go into the unknown, you know there's shots being fired, obviously the suspect was in there and ready for him", he said.
Officials have not yet released information about the other victims.
Thousand Oaks is a city of about 130,000 people about 64 kilometers west of Los Angeles, just across the county line.
The Borderline Bar & Grill lists a "College Country Night" which takes place on Wednesdays, and is said to be popular with students.
Silikula said she heard the sirens of emergency vehicles two or three minutes later, then received a call from her daughter warning her that there had been a shooting.
There was no screaming, she said - just gunfire and stampeding crowds.
Helus was among the first officers through the door at Borderline.
"All I wanted to do was get as many people out of there as possible", he told KABC-TV.
Dean said he did not know of Long's motive.
"All I did was grab as many people as I could and pull them underneath the table until I heard a break in the shots, and then we got people out of there, as much as we could", Wennerstrom told the news station about the moment shots rang out.
Helus leaves behind a wife and son.
"It was chaos, people jumping out of windows, people hopping over gates to get out" Steinwender told local media.
In one such video, she interviewed Tim Dominguez, who recalled escaping the bar with his son as others lost their lives around them, including a responding sheriff's deputy.
"I am very emotional right now", he said.
"He was really fast so he knew what he was doing and he also had ideal form".
There has been a shooting at a bar in Southern California which has left 12 people dead, including a sheriff's deputy and the gunman.
Roadways were blocked in the area as the Ventura County Sheriff's Office was joined at the scene by officers with the California Highway Patrol, FBI, Simi Valley Police Department, Oxnard Police Department and Ventura Police Department, as well as at least one team from Los Angeles County.
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